AFT Resolution

RESPONDING TO DISASTER: RESTORING FAITH IN INSTITUTIONS DURING TIMES OF CRISIS

WHEREAS, in recent years, American Federation of Teachers members across the country have experienced natural disasters, including storms, flooding, wildfires and infectious disease outbreaks, as well as human-triggered environmental disasters; and

WHEREAS, in Houston, extreme flooding from Hurricane Harvey caused $125 billion in damage; in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hurricane Maria set off a still-unfolding humanitarian crisis that has caused more than $90 billion in damage; in Florida, Hurricane Irma caused $50 billion in total damage; Western wildfires have cost an additional $18 billion; and damage caused by ongoing volcanic eruptions in Hawaii will raise these totals even higher; and

WHEREAS, beyond the dollar costs of these terrible events are the human costs—the deaths of loved ones, the loss of homes and property, the long-lasting physical and emotional injuries—that have so devastated our communities; and

WHEREAS, whether caused by global warming or by our abuse of our natural resources, the frequency and severity of these disasters are increasing; during these disasters, schools have been damaged or closed, while students and teachers have been forced to deal with trauma-related issues both in the classroom and at home; regrettably, government austerity cuts have handicapped the capacity of our public sector to respond; and

WHEREAS, during these disasters and in their aftermath, our schools, faculty and staff have been critical in responding: Schools serve as shelters for the displaced and the elderly, and teachers and staff assist in maintaining the shelters, serving meals and caring for the injured; schools also become communications hubs, serving as a nexus of aid and information for the community; and nurses and health professionals from our healthcare division often are the first to respond to a crisis; and

WHEREAS, AFT members have bravely responded to numerous disasters in recent years. Consider:

  • In Houston, dozens of AFT volunteers gathered in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, helping organize classes and deliver instruction to displaced students living in shelters, cook meals, deliver relief supplies and construction materials, and clean homes, schools and shelters;
  • For the U.S. Virgin Islands, AFT volunteers put together 1,500 cleaning kits for members to have basic emergency tools and hygiene supplies;
  • In Puerto Rico, the AFT has partnered with Operation Blessing International to launch Operation Agua, providing safe drinking water to families and schools across the island, with the goal of delivering more than 100,000 water filtration systems for households and classrooms; and
  • The AFT is using technology in new ways for outreach. In Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, the AFT conducted major outreach campaigns using a social media tool called Hustle, and more than 44,000 messages were sent to members to offer assurance and information; and

WHEREAS, AFT affiliates are leading by putting emergency response protocols in place before an emergency event: For example, AFT locals have negotiated contract language to ensure union involvement in the development of employer emergency preparedness, response and continuity; the AFT and our locals have distributed emergency funds to thousands of members in need; and financial assistance has come in from abroad, contributed by the AFT’s colleague unions in Education International and Public Services International; and

WHEREAS, the post-disaster environment has been used as a cover for the so-called reorganizing of school systems but is, in fact, serving as an opportunity for profit-seeking private corporations to move into what should remain a public resource:

RESOLVED, that American Federation of Teachers affiliates, with community allies, will share best practices, preparation plans, safety equipment, communication technology and training on emergency response, and that, after a disaster, the union hall will be a place of resource and refuge to our members and the communities we serve; and

RESOLVED, that AFT affiliates will engage in advocacy to press governments for the funding, material, staffing and training that our communities’ responders need for emergency preparedness; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will aggressively promote—both internally and externally (where appropriate), through all available media—its online emergency preparedness toolkit that contains key information, such as a summary of the employer’s responsibilities during an emergency event, sample contract language and links to post-disaster relief resources; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will promote online resources through Share My Lesson that teach students about climate change and other environmental issues and the urgent need to address them; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT and our allies will continue to push back against the efforts of private corporations and edu-businesses to profit from school systems and public services during post-disaster recovery, including assisting affiliates on the front lines of this fight to build cross-local networks of support.

 

(2018)

Please note that a newer resolution, or portion of a resolution, may have superseded an earlier resolution on the same subject. As a result, with the exception of resolutions adopted at our most recent AFT convention, resolutions do not necessarily reflect current AFT policies.